When I heard the news that Mr. President would be addressing the nation I had mixed feelings but I was a bit hopeful that he would address the issue of increased banditry and robbery that seems to have been on the rise since he announced a lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT on the 30th of March 2020.
However, I could not help but notice a major lacuna in his address to the nation. He left out the issue of these robberies which have been reported all over social media since the 11th of April 2020.
This was most disappointing and I wonder if his speech writers have been listening to the clarion on the robberies or they didn’t think it was necessary to specifically dwell on this in his address. And to top it up, Mr. President didn’t even address the issue of abuse of power by law enforcement agents especially has there have been several reports of the overreaching measures they take to ensure compliance with the lockdown. Its no news that the Nigerian Police have always gone overboard in carrying out it duties. I have been at the receiving end of this on one or two occassions.
Twitter went agog yesterday when several handles continued to describe ongoing robbery in Lagos State in areas like Oshodi, Igando, Egbeda, Ejigbo, Gowon Estate, Egan, Ikotun, Ijegun. You cannot help but understand that people were afraid and felt helpless. This was even expressed by one handler who tweeted as follows:
“Wit this Whole robbery going on ,it’s shows they don’t care abt us..we are our own security..they are leaving ppl in igando at the mercies of this robbers..hv been geting msgs frm my friends cryin,its really bad..it’s appears we have to fight for ourselves by ourselves 😭”
And another tweeted:
“It’s a pity our frontline man couldn’t address the robbery & killinz & street brothers takn up arms in defense of there communities! They said he was cloned! We swept it under the carpet! Wait till he disappears without a trace! Your leader is anonymous! #igando #COVID19Nigeria”
I expected that Mr. President would come out to state that his attention has been drawn to the spate of robbery in Lagos and Ogun States and that he has been in communication with the Governors of each state and the Inspector General of Police to attend to the security issues raised by Nigerians. But that didn’t happen! And as soon as he ended his address, there were more reports of coordinated robberies going on in these places.
We need the President and his team to understand that Nigerians are going through a lot at the moment. I am happy that Mr. President had stated in his speech that:
“…we made this very difficult decision knowing fully well it will severely disrupt your livelihoods and bring undue hardship to you, your loved ones and your communities. However, such sacrifices are needed to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our country. They were necessary to save lives.”
The question now is, should breakdown in security be added to the plate of Nigerians?
Not only are they forced to deal with Covid-19, they have to deal with hunger as well as fear at the same time. That’s too much! This could raise a lot of mental issues and we don’t need that. Nigerians have always been known as very cheerful people. Even in the face of extreme poverty, disregard by government of the rule of law, lawlessness, and so many other ills Nigerians have always found humor and turned their pains into joke and then move on. However, the President and State Governors need to constantly remind themselves that the circumstances are now different. The President need to step up to the plate and find a way to always address issues as quickly as they arise.
Nigerians need a responsive government, like a father relating with his children. A leader must be able to give his people assurances and address their concerns as proactive as possible in order to prevent extreme responses from them.
It would be terrible if the people have to take laws into their hands. I hope this doesn’t blow out of proportion because last last when the robbery gets too much for the people the only option they will have is to disobey the lockdown and commence jungle justice. And one thing is sure Nigerians will fight back if it continues this way and government is not doing anything to protect its citizens. Even if it means disregarding all WHO guidelines.
The last thing we need added to the hardship of the lockdown is jungle justice and all forms of lawlessness. This would be a big problem not only for the society but also for law enforcement agencies.
Also it is important the government starts taking proactive steps towards the mental health of Nigerians. There have been reports that mental issues are one of the problems of this sort of lock-down considering that other issues like domestic violence, child abuse and gender and sexual abuse will be taking place as well. The Nigerian government needs to give its best to address all these issues in the interest of its people.
I know Mr. President had included in his speech that the objective of he and his team “… was, and still remains, to contain the spread of the Coronavirus and to provide space, time and resources for an aggressive and collective action.”
We also plead with Mr. President and his team to expand this objective to security and planning ahead to mitigate mental health issues post Covid-19.
Mojirayo Ogunlana-Nkanga is an Abuja based Legal Practitioner and the Principal of M.O.N. Legal.